Hello 2018, you saucy thing.
About this time last year I asked a Facebook group for recommendations of a GP who was good was women’s health, and trotted off to tell this warm stranger about the lump I’d found in my breast. Not until after I’d run through a host of other complaints, no energy, putting on weight, depressed, wondering if my IUD needs review…after all of that and a bunch of orders for blood tests and ultrasounds…
“By the way…”
Like it hadn’t been preying on my mind constantly for days.
I knew it was serious: I’d first found the lump when I was in England after a relative passed away suddenly. I had decided to ignore it until I was back in Australia, and when I ‘found’ it again in January I was pretty sure it was bigger. I clung to the pretence that I didn’t know in the same way I pretended to believe in Santa for years: perhaps if you believe, it will be true. Maybe it was just a cyst, or a fibroid. You know it’s not. I knew people who’d had scares. You know it wasn’t like this. I just shut that voice in my head down.
That was the start of a year long lesson in self care.
As I come up to the anniversary of my diagnosis, I am feeling GOOD. I mean, seriously. GOOD. I have been cut open, poisoned, had a breast cut-off and next they’re gonna zap me with x-rays, but my head is clear and my mood is positive and my body’s getting stronger. I’ve put a lot of effort into learning to manage my energy and mood, and to nourish myself with healthy food and gentle exercise and it’s really paid off. I’ve learned an immense amount about myself and one of the biggest learnings is that my optimism about my ability to cope doesn’t guarantee I will…so I know I won’t feel this good all the time…and that’s okay.
One of the hardest things to learn was not to make plans. I love to plot and plan and set targets and goals and last year life laughed at me IN THE FACE every time I tried to assert control over things. Because I love to plot and plan, I’ve decided not to try to stop doing that, but also to recognise that they are just thoughts, not commands to the universe. I am not a failure if my crazy ideas don’t all come true. Have fun with planning, don’t turn plans into a stick to beat yourself with.
I still have a treatments ahead of me, and I haven’t fully recovered from the surgeries and chemo, so my major goal is to focus on my health. That means: managing my work stress, not over-committing on social activities, and keeping up the daily practices that have helped me get this far.
And I still want to write. Writing is part of my self-care: it’s one of my daily practices. My new writers group made me commit to two writing goals that they’ll check in on at the end of the year, and to sharing my weeks’ writing activity with the group every Saturday. So I have those goals too.
And you know what? I think that’s plenty. Life can be a bitch, and if there’s one thing that’s certain, it will throw shit at you from out of the blue. The best thing we can do is be kind: to others, but especially to ourselves.